Recreate and reinvent; these two words have been the guiding principles for many food & beverage businesses in Mumbai to tide over the challenging times during the lockdown.
And Maharashtra Government’s announcement to reopen eateries for dining in, after half a year of shutdown, comes as a big relief. In fact, starting October 05, one third of Mumbai’s restaurants and cafes have already opened, maintaining social distancing and highest safety measures.
Let’s see how its like to dine out again.
“We had no reservations on Monday, but a few walk-ins. Although, we anticipate more guests in the evening hours. Our menus are now digital, and guests pay through QR code,” says Krishna Gupta, Managing Director of 1441 Pizzeria.
He adds, “1441 pizzeria is complying with strict social distancing and hygiene protocols. Our staff is always in masks and gloves, Guests are seated on alternate tables and all the areas are sanitized frequently.”
Alfredo’s Malad’s Partner and Executive Chef Jasjit Singh Keer is happy to finally see guests dining in and enjoying their meals with family and friends at the restaurant. “To woo the guests, we have introduced a loyalty programme for them to come and dine in and earn points that can be redeemed on their next visit.”
He adds, “Besides temperature checks and sanitising, we have arranged for our guests to be seated at alternate tables and have provided them with a digital menu and digital payment options. While the staff has been given face shields, masks, separate santiser bottles. They are supposed to change their gloves after service. Moreover, we also made conveyance and accommodation arrangements for the staff during reopening, as many live at far-off places.”
Flamboyante and Hammer & Song by Fountain Hospitality Group, Cuffe Parade
It is a big relief and an exciting feeling for Amrish Arora, Managing Director, Fountain Hospitality, to get back to doing what restaurateurs love to do, to serve gourmands. “We are wooing patrons through social media, loyalty emails, WhatsApp and other forms of digital communication, and word of mouth too.”
Safety protocols are not compromised at any of Fountain Hospitality’s restaurants – i.e. Cuffe Parade’s Flamboyante and Hammer & Song. “Our tables are placed at least 3 feet apart, as mandated by the government. Cutlery and crockery are washed in Winterhalter dishwasher and after cleaning, it is put in an envelope, which is opened only by guests. The staff wears masks and shields and the tables are sanitised when customers leave. We are also using digital menus and encouraging guests to pay digitally.”
The number one challenge in Mumbai right now is the limited public transportation, believes Arora, “Additionally, the crucial discussion with landlords for rents continues, while also managing the entire restaurant operations with 30 per cent staff.”
Keiba, Royal Western India Turf Club, Mahalaxmi
For Ronak Rochlani, Partner, Keiba, it is an overwhelming feeling to reopen, because the restaurant was shut since last seven months. “It feels good to have survived the struggle, since unfortunately, many restaurants were not able to make it.”
“There’s always a certain section of the crowd that wants to get out, and as long as you make them feel safe, they will readily dine in with you. On day one of restarting, the customers were very happy with the safety measures, food quality and they even tried our new menu, which we launched in March, but couldn’t continue because of the lockdown,” says Rochlani.
“I think, physical dining will bounce back as soon as the vaccine comes out. Until then, no one wants to go to a packed restaurant like the old times, when a buzzing venue was where people loved hanging out.”
One big challenge the team faced in wooing the customers was to promote Keiba as a safe place to visit, because of the presence of the Covid health-centre at the racecourse. Many people still don’t know that it is now empty and locked, and this may hinder the customers to go to Keiba. “But, luckily we’ve had a lot of loyal customers who are excited and have been asking us when they can come back.”
Keiba’s staff is also staying at the restaurant premises, so they don’t have to travel back and forth. All have gotten Covid tests done and on timely basis, sanitise and clean the venue, informs Rochlani. “The entire restaurant was also recently refurbished and polished, after the rainstorms damaged some parts of the place.”
AER, Four Seasons Mumbai
Mumbai’s popular luxury rooftop bar AER, on the 34th floor of the Four Seasons hotel has reopened as well. An announcement on Instagram read, “We’re all set to welcome you back with utmost safety and care for experiences, both, classic and new. Come along and light up your evenings with us again #UpInTheAER.”
Fenix, Oberoi Mumbai
Diners can also go to Fenix at The Oberoi Mumbai, which overlooks the Arabian Sea. “With a commitment to look after your safety and healthy, we assure you an enjoyable experience as you savour our exquisite menu selection at Fenix,” read an Instagram post of The Oberoi, Mumbai.
Botticino and O22 at Trident, BKC
The O22 and O22 Bar at Trident in BKC, known for their Asian and European fare are also all set to host guests. “Dine amidst a cosy nook and relish classic Italian cuisine with a contemporary flair, handcrafted by our team of culinary experts. Allow us to curate an inimitable Italian feast as we welcome you back with utmost safety and care!” read Trident’s Instagram post.